Recently, Egypt’s minister of antiquities, Mamdouh al-Damaty, announced plans to move forward with an underwater museum project in the Eastern Harbor area of Alexandria’s Abu Qir Bay. The museum, which has been in the works since 1996, incorporates a design from French architect Jacques Rougerie that features system of fiberglass tunnels on the sea floor. The tunnels will be further connected to an inland building on the Eastern shore of Abu Qir Bay.
The tunnels will be 20 feet below sea level and will surround the over 2,500 relics submerged in the area, including massive blocks that are believed to be the remains of the Pharos lighthouse, which stood at 450 feet tall as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World before falling into the bay in the 13th century AD. Another one of the artifacts is what is thought to be the remains of Cleopatra VII’s palace, according to Smithsonian magazine.
“We envisioned an underwater archaeology school with an international resonance to be part of the museum’s facilities,” Rougerie told Smithsonian on December 29. “The public could assist the work of the archaeologists on archaeological treasures like Cleopatra’s palace or the royal court that have been hidden from the public for thousands of years.”
Ulrike Guérin, UNESCO attorney responsible for the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, says the museum could change the way we look at underwater heritages.
“It’s difficult, because you can’t go there, and it’s a real issue to see that authentic heritage without having to take it out and dry it up,” says Guerin. “You can never show all of Alexandria—it’s huge—but parts of it are mind-changing.”